Returning to Work After a Work Injury

Returning to Work After a Work Injury

I am frequently asked about returning to work after a work injury.  Usually, the worker has the misfortune of being injured seriously enough that the injured worker’s doctor orders the worker to cease all work activities while recuperating from the injury.  This is typically in conjunction with surgery.

There comes a point in the healing process where the injured worker’s doctor may return the injured worker to limited duty.  For instance, following shoulder surgery the treating doctor may initially order the injured worker off work for a period of time while the injured worker’s arm and shoulder are completely immobilized.  After this period of immobilization, the injured worker may return to work but limited to work tasks requiring one arm.  Sometimes, a physician will limit the amount of hours that the injured worker may work per day also.

When the injured worker gets this type of limited return to duty from his or her physician, the injured work must immediately provide the employer with the documentation.  Remember to keep a copy for future reference.  Once the employer has notice of the injured worker’s restricted duty, the employer has the option to offer accommodated work.  Accommodated work simply means that the employer agrees to abide by the injured worker’s current work restriction.

In our example about the shoulder injury, the employer may choose to accommodate the injured worker’s restrictions by offering work in the office doing paper work or some other accommodated work that complies with the injured worker’s physician’s instructions.  Say for instance the injured worker is an electrician; the employer probably would not want to put the injured worker on a job site until the injured worker is released to full duty by his/her physician.  Once released to full duty, the injured worker can return to all job responsibilities full time.  This is undoubtedly the best result for the injured worker because he/she will be earning a full paycheck.

However, there are instances when the employer simply cannot accommodate the injured worker’s restrictions.  I have had experiences with employers whose policy is simply that they don’t accommodate any physical restrictions thus requiring the injured worker to return to full duty or not at all.  If the injured worker’s employer cannot accommodate the injured worker’s restrictions, the worker’s compensation insurance company would then owe the injured worker temporary total disability benefits.

Should an injured worker’s employer not offer accommodated work while the injured worker is recovering and the worker’s compensation insurance company does not pay temporary total disability benefits, please call us at Alvine|Weidenaar, 605-275-0808, to discuss the situation.

Bram Weidenaar
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